Monday, 28 May 2018

David Bowie - Pin Ups (1973)

With your long blonde hair, I couldn't sleep last night....


Released on 19 October 1973

Recorded at Chateau D'Herouville, France

Running time 40:30

In late 1973, when this album came out, many of us, bathing in the glorious light of Hunky/Ziggy/Aladdin were, to be honest, a bit bemused by this seemingly throwaway collection of covers of (comparatively) obscure sixties rhythm and blues tracks. We made out we loved it, but we didn’t really. However, as time progressed, I personally grew to love this 30 minute slice of seventies nostalgia for the sixties. It seemed to be de rigeur to put out a retrospective covers album as Bryan Ferry released "These Foolish Things" at the same time. Bowie went back to the British r'n'b boom of 1964-67 to source his material. Some of it was well-known, but certainly not all of it. 

These were the rear cover hand-written notes supplied by Bowie -

These songs are among my favourites from the '64–67' period of London.  Most of the groups were playing the Ricky-Tick (was it a 'y' or an 'i'?) -Scene club circuit (Marquee, eel pie island la-la).  Some are still with us - Pretty Things, Them, Yardbirds, Syd's Pink Floyd, Mojos, Who, Easybeats, Merseys, The Kinks.  Love-on ya! Bowie.

The album was hurriedly put out due to contractual obligations to Mick Ronson and Trevor Bolder, the remaining Spiders From Mars who Bowie had legendarily dumped on stage at Hammersmith Odeon in July 1973, I believe. For all that, Ronson still shines brightly throughout. Aynsley Dunbar’s drumming isn’t half bad either. Indeed, it is one of the standout points of the album. The music is played with a vibrancy and enthusiasm that certainly doesn't suggest going through the motions. It all sounds great and is an enjoyable forty minutes and also very nostalgic for me. 

TRACK LISTING (original artists shown)

1. Rosalyn (by The Pretty Things)

2. Here Comes The Night (by Them)
3. I Wish You Would (by The Yardbirds
4. See Emily Play (by Pink Floyd)
5. Everything's Alright (by The Mojos)
6. I Can't Explain (by The Who)
7. Friday On My Mind (by The Easybeats)
8. Sorrow (by The Merseys)
9. Don't Bring Me Down (by The Pretty Things)
10. Shapes Of Things (by The Yardbirds)
11. Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere (by The Who)
12. Where Have All The Good Times Gone (by The Kinks)  

The obvious track everyone knows is “Sorrow”, with its delicious saxopone solo, which charted as a single in late 1973, but there are other appealing tracks - the very punky “Rosalyn”, the urgent “I Wish You Would”, the sneering “Friday On My Mind” and the pounding rock of “Don’t Bring Me Down”.  The two Who covers, the saxophone-driven “I Can’t Explain”, “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” and Them’s “Here Comes The Night” are slightly less than convincing, but Pink Floyd’s “See Emily Play” is very impressive.

“Shapes Of Things” and the rocking, vibrant “Everything’s Alright” are more than adequate too. The Kinks' "Where Have All The Good Times Gone" has a solidity that maybe the original slightly lacked. 

All in all, it is still an enjoyable listen every now and again. An interesting thing to do, also, is make a playlist of the originals. Does Bowie come off best? Debatable. Probably just, because of the better sound quality.

Regarding the various remasters around - the EMI/RYKO has the bonus tracks, Springsteen’s “Growin’ Up” and Jacques Brel’s “Amsterdam” but it has a lo-fi, muffled sound, in my opinion.The 1999 remaster is clear, sharp and loud.

The 2015 is probably the most nuanced, rounded remaster. The harsh edges of the 1999 master have given way to a slighter quieter, subtler remaster.


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